I would do anything to reduce gun violence, but I won't do that (an open letter to Joe Manchin)

End the Filibuster, Joe

Dear Senator Manchin,

You are not my Senator, however despite the 'all men are created equal' concept your vote is more than 20 times more powerful than the Senators who do represent me. I therefore feel compelled to write and ask you to reconsider your position against ending the filibuster.

In The Hill this week you are quoted as saying:

"You all know where I stand; I’ll do anything I can."

But then, unfortunately:

"The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity. Total insanity."

I believe that you hold this position out of principle. I also know that you have previously worked (and failed) to strengthen background checks. We can't make any progress solving this problem without you. Please take an evidence based approach to the actual danger involved in allowing the Senate to legislate with a simple majority. Consider as a starting point the rest of the G-7.

Canada only requires a supermajority to pass a constitutional amendment. Those trucker protests got a little out of hand, but Canada is not insane.

France does not require a supermajority. It is not insane.

Germany does not require a supermajority. It is not insane.

Italy uses a supermajority for early rounds of presidential voting but otherwise not. Also not insane.

Japan needs a supermajority to amend their constitution. Again, not insane.

I'm not in love with the House of Lords, but the United Kingdom manages to pass laws without a supermajority and is not insane.

Our inability to control gun violence and our inability to allow the duly elected government to legislate are the same problem. Insanity is doing the same thing (in this case nothing) over and over again and expecting different results.

Thank you for your consideration.

(Related: Legislative Service; Intelligence Squared Two-Party Debate; Episode Four)

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Catfood WebCamSaver 3.28

Updated on Friday, June 24, 2022

Catfood WebCamSaver 3.28

Catfood WebCamSaver 3.28 is available to download.

This release updates the webcam list.

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Stars over Casini Ranch, a Timelapse

Stars over Casini Ranch, a Timelapse

Timelapse of stars over Casini Ranch, a campground near Duncan Mills in Sonoma, California. Shot over two nights looking north-east and then south-west from the bank of the Russian River.

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(More Timelapses)

Bangalore Sunsets

Daily Average Global Cloud Cover Animation

Daily Average Global Cloud Cover Animation


me: What if I used a year of global cloud cover images to make an animation where each frame is the average of the past 24 hours?

The animation covers August 2020 to August 2021. See this video for a version without the averaging (and with the Earth's surface).

The averaged version shows some interesting cycles better than the frenetic pace of hourly cloud cover. In my area you can really see the high pressure off the coast of California that sends any rain off to our friends in Seattle.

Images are from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center, specifically the Global IR product, transformed as described here.

(Related: Animation of a year of Global Cloud Cover; Improving the accuracy of the new Catfood Earth clouds layer; Catfood Earth)

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(More Timelapses)

Book reviews for April 2022

The Wonder Book of Geometry: A Mathematical Story by David Acheson

The Wonder Book of Geometry: A Mathematical Story by David Acheson



I Am Not Who You Think I Am by Eric Rickstad

I Am Not Who You Think I Am by Eric Rickstad



The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey



(Related: #Resist; Go-arounds: LEGO and Legislative Service; Nonfiction)

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Shots are: north to Mount Tamalpais from Golden Gate Heights park, south-west from Grand View Park, north from Grand View, south from Grand View, north again from Grand View and finally east from Grand View (if you look closely something is being hauled up Sutro Tower).

(Related: TLOTW #5; Golden Gate Park from Grand View Park; Grand View of Fog)

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(More Timelapses)

Sutro Tower, Moon, and Plane

A Plane, the Moon and Sutro Tower

Google Pixel 6 Pro 19mm f3.5 1/250s ISO33

Brief moment of calm before a 737 knocks the Moon into Sutro Tower. Almost.

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(Recent Photos)

Links for April 2022

Save America’s Patent System

Good problem to solve, wrong solution. Examine patents on use rather than before issuing.

(Related: This week in defeating Patent Trolls; How to fix software patents; BBC On Patents)

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Long term solar powered time lapse camera using Arduino

Solar powered 5MP Arduino time lapse camera

After a few experiments I have a pretty decent platform for capturing long term time lapse footage. The system is designed to run for around a month and captures a photo every thirty seconds during daylight hours. It's a fairly cheap build so I'm not too worried about theft or accidental damage. This post contains build instructions and sample code to get the camera up and running. Before that, here's a quick video made from a few test runs:

On the hardware side you need an Arduino Mega 2560 REV3, the OV5642 camera module, an SD module and card, a battery and a solar panel. You'll also want a waterproof case, cables and some zip ties. Everything I used is on this Amazon list. I tried a few different power solutions and the Voltaic Systems 6W solar panel + 6,400 mAh battery combination is ideal. Their battery banks are 'always on' and continue to provide power even when the Arduino isn't doing anything. Most battery banks shut down when there is low power usage. In my testing the 6W panel managed to keep the system running with no issues.

The main limitation is that Arduino only supports up to 32GB SD cards. With the code below this allows around a month of photos. Depending on the application you could go much longer - the variables are interval (I'm shooting a frame around every 30 seconds) and file size (lower resolution and/or JPEG quality). At some point I'd like to figure out cellular upload but for now 32GB will have to do.

Assembly is pretty easy. The OV5642 camera uses both the I2C and SPI buses. For I2C connect the pins labeled SCL and SDA to SCL and SDA on the Arduino Mega (D21 and D20 pins - search Arduino Mega pinout if necessary). The SPI connections are MISO, MOSI and SCK (available at D50, D51 and D52). You also need CS (chip select) - wire this to D10. Finally wire ground and power to the GND and 5V pins. The SD module also uses SPI. Wire its MISO, MOSI and SCK to the same pins (D50, D51 and D52). SD needs a separate CS (chip select), use D7. And finally for SD connect ground and power to GND and 5V. That's it.

The box linked above is large enough to fit all the components easily. You'll need to drill two holes, one for the camera lens and one for the solar panel cable. Once assembled, seal around both as well as you can.

To program the Mega you need to install the Arduino IDE and then download and install the ArduCAM library. Make sure that the ArduCAM folder is directly under the libraries folder for your Arduino IDE (on Windows this is probably C:\Program Files (x86)\Arduino\libraries\ArduCAM). Then open the file memorysaver.h in the ArduCAM folder and make sure that only the OV5642 line is uncommented (#define OV5642_MINI_5MP_PLUS). If you get build errors it's almost certainly this step that is the problem so check carefully.

At this point I'd suggest trying the blink sample to make sure that you can connect to and program your board successfully. Once this is working create a new sketch and then copy the code below:

A few notes on the code. Near the top you can uncomment the line #define USE_SERIAL to get diagnostic messages written to the serial monitor. This can be useful for debugging if necessary. The sketch uses the built in LED to indicate problems as well - if everything is working you'll see the LED light up during setup and then switch off once the main loop starts. When a picture is written to the SD card the SD module LED will light up, so if you see that happening every 30 seconds or so then you should be in good shape. If the setup code fails to find the camera or SD module the internal LED will blink indicating that you need to fix something. Check that the OV5642 and SD modules are correctly wired. I would also try disconnecting power from the Mega for a few seconds. I have experienced connection issues with the OV5642 that are only fixed by a power cycle.

At startup there is also a check for existing files on the SD card and the file number is incremented by 1000 as needed until existing files will not be overwritten. This is useful in case the system loses power and restarts for any reason. I have included most configurable parameters for the camera module in the setup code like contrast and exposure adjustments so these should be easy to tweak based on your specific application.

Finally the startup code disables Mega features that are not used and after each photo the camera is powered down and the Mega put to sleep. Each sleep is around nine seconds. The number of sleeps depends on the size of the image - if below 200K it will sleep for around half an hour before trying again. This saves filling up the SD card with nighttime images and preserves power when the solar panel is unlikely to be helpful. This is another area to tweak depending on how you plan to use the system.

If you have any questions (or if you build this and it works for you) please leave a comment below.

(Related: Style Transfer for Time Lapse Photography; Capture DropCam (Nest Cam) frames to Google Drive; Export Google Fit Daily Steps, Weight and Distance to a Google Sheet)

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I Thought He Came With You is Robert Ellison's blog.